, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 14-22
Date: 17 Feb 2011

Cognitive reappraisal increases heart rate variability in response to an anger provocation

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Abstract

Adaptive self-regulatory responses to negative events are associated with good mental health, social functioning, and physical health. Two forms of emotion regulation that have received attention within the context of anger are cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression. Research suggests that greater heart rate variability (HRV) is a physiological indicator of adaptive emotion regulation and decreased mental load. In the present experiment, we recorded HRV while 131 undergraduate women viewed an anger-inducing video of a fellow student arguing for a position counter to that of the participant on an important political issue. Immediately prior to viewing, participants were instructed to reappraise, suppress their emotions, or simply watch the video as normal. Participants in the reappraisal condition showed increased HRV whereas those in the suppression and control condition showed no such increase. These results provide support for increased HRV as a biological correlate of adaptive emotion regulation. One implication is that cognitive reappraisal might afford greater autonomic flexibility when an individual is confronted with anger-inducing events.